Ministers have failed to rule out cuts to doctors, nurses, and other NHS staff as part of their plan to make £22bn “efficiency savings” in the health service.
NHS managers will today hear how executives in the health service plan to make the savings, which will be complemented by an £8bn cash injection from the Treasury.
In a speech NHS England boss Simon Stevens will stress that the health service can be made more efficient by increasing preventative care and moving care from hospitals to GP surgeries
But despite today’s focus on positive measures and changes to working practices, the Government is refusing to rule out making NHS staff cuts.
Ministers at the Department of Health were asked by Labour MP Ian Lavery whether the “efficiency savings” to be rolled out over the next five years would lead to a reduction in staff.
Health minister Ben Gummer responded that the Conservative manifesto committed the government to ensuring that adequate staff were in place – but did not rule out cuts to their numbers.
“NHS England will be announcing further details about the implementation of the Five Year Forward View in due course,” he said in a written response.
“Making the best use of available technologies and cutting administration costs will free up £1.5 billion per year in this Parliament for extra resources for front line patient care.
“The Government's manifesto committed that we would continue to ensure that we have enough doctors, nurses and other staff to meet patients’ needs.”
The plan to shift work from A&Es to GPs could face huge obstacles, according to research, published today by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the Patients Association.
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
The report found that A&E wards were often “the only accessible service” for patients seeking same-day care and found that nearly a quarter of patients attending wards had actually contacted their GP first but had been turned away.
The study's authors propose that GPs be stationed at A&E departments, or ‘co-located’, so that the shift in care can be delivered without major behavioural change on behalf of patients. They also stress adequate resources would be required.
The continual drive to improve efficiency in the NHS comes despite studies regularly finding that the UK has the most efficient way of delivering healthcare out of all major developed countries.
A report by the Commonwealth Fund ranked Britain's health service best overall out of 11 major services including the US, France, Germany, Australia, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The NHS scored particularly highly on quality of care, efficiency, and low cost at the point of service.
The health service is facing a number of pressures including an aging population and a different financial situation, however, and ministers and managers are keen to push it further.
Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said: “Before the election the Tories denied their plans involved staff cuts, but now they are refusing to rule them out.
“David Cameron should now come clean about what his plans for £22bn ‘savings’ involves – is he planning staff cuts or service closures?”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health did not immediately make any further comment on the subject of staff cuts when contacted by the Independent.